Waterfowlers took to the swamps and marshes last week for a four-day stretch of Tennessee’s 60-day duck season. It was the first segment of a two-segment season that closed Monday and will reopen Saturday for a 56-day straight stretch that will take it all the way through Jan. 31.
Reports from across Middle and West Tennessee indicate the first segment of the season was pretty slow for the lion’s share of duck hunters. There are always a few who managed to be in the right place at the right time but even for those lucky enough to get the season started on the right foot it was a short honeymoon.
A few scattered blinds in upper West Sandy Wildlife Management Area had a good opening morning but numbers of duck taken were mixed bags of woodies and mallards. Some blinds bagged double digit numbers by midmorning while others across the vast area did not fare as well.
Popular blinds in the pumphouse field did not get the season going as well as they have in times past. Duck numbers were low for most in that sector while a few blinds in portions of the upper bottom where recent rains had high water pushed back up into shallow timber seemed to have the best shooting.
Popular areas such as Camden Bottoms WMA in Benton County had one of the worst openers in recent memory as duck numbers were down there, resulting in a below average start to the season.
Camden Bottoms has a reputation of pretty good hunting, especially in the early season as ducks normally feed and roost in the area which has several acres of corn planted by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for waterfowl. However, this year some of the more popular blinds in the draw did not yield as many shooting opportunities as they have in times past.
A few gadwalls were taken mixed with low numbers of wood ducks but the usual number of mallards, teal and other species were just not there.
Sharing a similar story was Dover Bottoms WMA in Stewart County over on Lake Barkley.
“Ducks were observed using the area in good numbers a week or two prior to the season opener but seem to pick up and move out as opening day arrived,” said TWRA area spokesman Ronnie Cole.
“It’s still early in the season so we have a wide window of opportunity ahead. For a small percentage of blinds it was a decent opener but overall it was a poor opening for the first segment around the Kentucky Lake area.”
A few blinds in Big Sandy WMA were fortunate to experience a good opening day while nearby Gin Creek didn’t do so well.
For most of the units, activity diminished once opening day came and went. Seems the ducks responded to hunting pressure and each day hunters saw less ducks and heard less shooting as the early segment drew to a close Monday at sunset.
Despite a bit of a weather change on Monday that saw temperatures plummet and some scattered snow flurries enter the picture, ducks didn’t respond favorably like most hunters thought they would.
Elsewhere across the region activity in extreme West Tennessee seemed to be more promising. More ducks were seen and taken in the Mississippi River drainage areas of the lower Obion and Forked Deer sectors.
Several private hunting clubs did well throughout the weekend as ducks were lingering near the Mississippi River where high water was beginning to back out into bottoms and attracting ducks. Several good reports came from the Dyersburg area and around Tigrett and Whites Lake sectors.
Reelfoot Lake duck zone was closed last week as it had a two-day earlier opener back in November. The season there was slated to resume on Thursday of this week and parallel the rest of the Tennessee statewide season, which runs through the end of January.
Seems there’s always the haves and have nots once the season gets underway.
STEVE McCADAMS is The Post-Intelligencer’s outdoors writer. His email address is email@example.com.